Learning disabilities involve difficulty with processing information due to a deficit or deficits in the brain. They may be evident at an early age or once a child begins school. Learning disabilities include difficulty with listening, reading, spelling, writing, mathematics and expressive written or spoken language. Learning disabilities can be identified at early ages as communication disorders. Whenever they are recognized, schools are equipped to identify and accommodate disabilities. Learning disabilities are a neurological disorder, and conventional medicine views it as a condition that cannot be "cured."
How are learning disabilities identified? During the school years, Response to Intervention (RTI) is first used with struggling and at risk students to briefly test, screen and modify instructional programs. Once the instructional program is modified, he child's achievement is measured to see if progress is being made. If progress is not adequate, a comprehensive battery of tests are administered. These measure cognitive ability (IQ) and achievement levels in the areas of reading, math, listening, expressive language and writing. These determine more specifically whether the child is achieving at his or her ability level. If there is a wide difference between the ability level and the achievement level, a learning disability can be indicated. Very often, other factors such as the enviornment both at home and at school are part of the equation, and need to be considered. When the individual is found to have a learning disability, they are entitled to a special educational program called an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). This plan will be used as a guide to develop an instructional program at school that wil best meet the child's needs.
Can other factors coexist? Factors that influence learning can also exist these can include emotional, coordination, integration and numerous medical issues. The list can be extensive, and an evaluation by a qualified neuropsychologist or school psychologist is essential in making the identification. Sometimes a neuropsychological evaluation is necessary to evaluate more thoroughly the processes that underly the functional disconnect between ability and achievement.
Why neurofeedback? Because learning disabilities have a neurological basis, it seems logical to approach the neurological underpinnings of these problems. For example, it is known that certain areas of the cerebral cortex are responsible for information processing necessary for each of the learning areas. A brain map can identify those areas that are not functioning optimally. From that information, a program of remediation can be set up to help the brain function more optimally.
Does neurofeedback increase intelligence? Actually, measures of intelligence are increased after neurofeedback,as well as measures of academic achievement. What actually happens is that the skills already there but untapped are now able to be expressed. The result is an increased measured IQ or intelligence quotient. The person is probably not smarter, only more efficient in using their innate skills. Intelligence is the ability to learn. Those who are "smarter" learn more quickly and are more efficient. A brain that is "smarter" has actually become more efficient in processing novel information and learning.
How does the neurofeedback affect behaviors? Children who are more successful are less anxious, depressed, oppositional, aggressive. They begin to demonstrate better judgement and improved compliance, self direction and adaptive behaviors. This is true in part to the fact that neurofeedback also calms emotional states. Very often children who are taking various types of medication to control mood and behaviors can have these medications reduced from a treatment plan using neurofeedback.
What does the treatment consist of with neurofeedback? Generally, there is a two step plan in treating learning disabilities. After a careful evaluation, the brain is first stabilized and then the specific areas of disability are trained to improve specific processing skills. Often a dyslexic child may not need to go to a site specfic area after overal stabilization is achieved.
Does neurofeedback "cure" learning disabilities? Conventional medicine considers learning disabilities as a lifelong condition. Some types of disabilities are inborn, such as a very low IQ. However, what neurofeedback does is to reduce and even eliminate defects, according to the individual person's situation. This can be a "cure" when the child is no longer in need of an IEP or
special education placement in order to be successful in school. They no longer feel different from or inferior to their peers. By way of example, one of my severely learning disabled graduates remediated by the neurofeedback program became so successful in school that she was the classroom consultant to the others for clarifying teachers' instructions and lessons.
Neurofeedback can also be beneficial to students who are just below their optimal level of achievement and need peak performance for college entrance and success. We have experienced numerous successes in this domain.